Yes, eventually, a few dozen big, strong guys are all going to get together and play a football game down the road in Santa Clara.
But for the time being, this is where the action is. And by action I mean parties. And by parties I mean PARTIES. PARTIES the size of rock concerts. That feel like rock concerts. That actually are rock concerts, in some cases.
Lavish, hedonistic affairs where free Stella Artois and pinot noir and Maker’s Mark await around every corner. Where women in $500 cocktail dresses pretend not to notice the men in $500 sport coats who just can’t seem to keep their eyes “up here.” Where every moment you put your face in your cellphone to check your Twitter is a moment when you might miss a celebrity walking by.
Hollywood stars of various wattage – Aaron Paul, Alyssa Milano, Bill Pullman and Jeff Goldblum, to name a few – were on the guest list for Friday night’s Playboy party, a $1,250-per-ticket bash (in a parking lot at AT&T Park) celebrating the magazine’s first non-nude issue. Oh, and the Super Bowl. There’s that, too.
There are dozens of soirees to choose from over the course of the week, and naturally the ones with the biggest names are the toughest for the average fan to get into.
Other hot tickets include ESPN’s party, featuring Nick Jonas, on Friday at Festival Pavilion at Fort Mason Center, and three biggies on Saturday: Rolling Stone’s, headlined by EDM star Avicii, at the San Francisco Design Center; Maxim’s, on Treasure Island, with sets by rappers A$AP Rocky and Lil Wayne; and Taste of the NFL – featuring a concert by Third Eye Blind and food from chefs like Blake Hartwick of Charlotte’s Bonterra restaurant – at The Cow Palace.
On top of all that, a little band named Metallica is at AT&T Park for a show labeled “The Night Before.” The night before ... what, exactly? Oh, right; the Super Bowl! I keep forgetting.
At least EA Sports’ tony Madden Bowl XXII party, held Friday night inside the lowly lit and highly polished marble and terrazzo halls of the Nob Hill Masonic Center, had a football theme and a celebrity guest list that was heavier on athletes than entertainers.
Which presented an opportunity, of course, for a reporter from Charlotte.
Me to New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees: “Got a Super Bowl prediction?”
Brees: “No, but I think Carolina’s the most complete team. The way that they’ve played, especially down the stretch, has been pretty remarkable. I mean, they’ve played against some pretty good teams in Seattle and then Arizona and just made it look pretty ridiculous.”
Me to Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins: “Thoughts on Cam Newton?”
Cousins (who has the Panthers winning, 17-10): “He’s such an entertainer, and he has been all year. Especially Sunday, going against that pass rush from Denver, I think it’ll be really fun to watch that battle.”
Eric Berry of Kansas City and Jordan Reed of Washington were there, to compete head-to-head for the championship round of a “Madden NFL” video-game tournament. Todd Gurley, Eddie Lacy, Teddy Bridgewater, Tyler Eifert, and a bunch of other people you’ll recognize if you follow football all walked the Madden Bowl red carpet, too.
But none got nearly the amount of attention lavished on celebrity turntablist DJ Khaled; or “Fast & Furious” star Ludacris; or Pete Wentz and Patrick Stump and the other two guys in Fall Out Boy; or a pint-sized Pomeranian named Jiff, star of a Katy Perry video and Guinness World Record holder for fastest dog on two paws.
And the video-game tournament was just ambience, so much background noise to go along with the free booze. The party didn’t really get going until Khaled started spinning, Ludacris started rapping, and Fall Out Boy started rocking.
Hundreds of well-heeled and/or well-connected folks pushed as close as they could to the stage, reveling in the auditorium’s perfect acoustics while pointing drinks toward their mouths and cellphone cameras toward the musicians.
On Sunday, the Carolina Panthers and the Denver Broncos would square off in a game that more than 100 million people will watch. But until then, all over San Francisco, seemingly: It’s party time.